Accepted Paper:

Cosmopolitan desires and investments in a multinational society: the case of French migrants in Abu Dhabi  


Claire Cosquer (Sciences Po)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation describes French migrants' cosmopolitan desires and investments in Abu Dhabi. It argues that the cosmopolitan repertoire could be considered as a form of capital. This does not preclude segregation, but rather reinforces an exclusive cosmopolitanism whose borders are racialized.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on an ethnography of French migrants in Abu Dhabi, this presentation describes their relationship with their host society and how they represent their position and sense of legitimacy there. It describes and analyzes the multiple forms of what the author terms "cosmopolitan desire" that are nurtured by informants, with cosmopolitanism defined as the normative assertion of an identity framed by moral values such as "tolerance" and "openness." Although informants seldom used the term "cosmopolitan" themselves, the article uses it as an umbrella term for a diverse lexical field ("multicultural," "international," "intercultural," "citizen of the world") to which informants resort when describing themselves, their children, and their lifestyles. The presentation argues that the cosmopolitan repertoire could be considered as a form of capital, complicating the binary opposition between economically motivated migration (supposedly highly invested and strategic) and culturally motivated migration (said to be disinterested, marginal, or hypocritical), thus making it possible to avoid opposing economic and cultural rationales for international mobility. In fact, cosmopolitan desires are not merely a cultural disguise for economic motivations. Although they are quite varied among French residents, they are closely associated with an array of strategies to make the most of mobility, through investment in lifestyles and school trajectories that allow them to compensate for their distance from national structures for social reproduction. Far from precluding practices of segregation, theses practices reinforce an exclusive cosmopolitanism in which nationalities of the global North are overrepresented and whose borders are racialized.

Panel P092
Cosmopolitan enclaves: tensions and paradoxes